Governor Chris Christie’s trip to a closed state beach during the state government shutdown didn’t go over well, according to a Monmouth University poll released Monday.
Almost all respondents — 86 percent — saw the pictures. When asked to describe it, the most popular word New Jerseyans used was "disgusted," at 7 percent, with "anger" and "disbelief" a close second. Other popular words: "Selfish," "hypocrite" and "arrogant." Less than 10 percent either said something positive or that they weren’t bothered by it.
And then there was this: "Another 6% of those polled simply used some form of profanity to express their sentiments about Christie’s beach day," said the press release circulated with the poll.
But Christie can take solace in one aspect of the latest poll on his job performance: He’s still in the double digits.
The viral photos of Christie enjoying the beach had some wondering whether his approval rating — already dismal — would sink below 10 percent.
That didn’t happen. But his approval among New Jersey residents is at just 15 percent, the lowest for any New Jersey governor in recorded history, and identical to the approval rating Quinnipiac University recorded for the governor last month.
"It really is difficult to drive approval ratings into the single digits barring something like a criminal conviction. However, you have to admire Christie’s seeming tenacity for trying to get his numbers down to that level," said Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute. "In reality, Christie may have found the floor for his ratings, but it’s a level where most of his constituents now feel his time on office has hurt the state."
Few governors in U.S. history have had such low approval ratings, though Christie is still twice as popular as former Ohio Gov. Bob Taft was in 2005, when he was facing ethics controversies and bottomed out at 7 percent in one poll, according to 538. Christie also has nearly twice the approval rating of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, whose approval rating bottomed out at 8 percent when he was charged with corruption when he tried to sell former President Barack Obama’s U.S. Senate seat in 2008.
Christie, who is nearing the end of his second term, is term-limited out of office come January.
"This is New Jerseyans telling it like it is, but the governor has said that he basically doesn’t care what they think. This just confirms what most of his constituents have suspected for the past three years," said Murray.
The poll marks the first time Monmouth has polled Christie’s approval rating since May of 2016, when it measured it at 27 percent. Since then, several other polls have shown him dipping well into the teens.
Until Christie, the least popular governor in state history was Democrat Brendan Byrne, who measured at 17 percent in 1977 just after enacting the state’s first income tax.
The shutdown over the state budget didn’t help Christie. Fifty-four percent blamed Christie and the Legislature equally for the budget impasse, which shut non-essential government services down for the first three days of July. Another 28 percent put more blame on Christie, while 14 percent put more blame on the Legislature.
Two thirds of New Jerseyans are aware that the shutdown stemmed from a disagreement on legislation that would give the state more control over its largest health insurer, Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey. And fifty-four percent believe that the legislation was motivated by political payback against the insurer. Incidentally, 90 percent of Horizon subscribers surveyed in the poll reported being at least somewhat satisfied with their insurance.
U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez, who faces a corruption trial in September, is far more popular than Christie, with 41 percent of New Jerseyans approving of his job performance and 36 percent disapproving. U.S. Sen. Cory Booker is more popular still, with 49 percent approving and 30 percent disapproving.
The poll of 800 New Jersey adults was conducted from July 6 to July 9 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.